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Guest post: musings from off the peacock throne…


26/08/2011



Tot Brill is our Executive Director here at Bikeminded HQ so it was quite the scoop getting her to be a bike hero for us. She chose one of the most stunning Electras, and named it the Peacock Throne.
 

Tot and her peacock throne


 
“Yesterday I cycled home from the station in pouring rain. I got wet. I got very wet. My mac leaked, my boots got sodden and my jeans stuck to my legs. But inside 5 minutes I was looking for puddles to splash through and smiling at ducks. There comes a point when you are so wet it doesn’t matter anymore and you might as well relish being drookit.
 
This morning the early morning sun was breaking through mist across the common and I cycled the 20k from East London to my office in Earl’s Court (short stop over for the gym and breakfast in Kensington High Street). Bliss again, but of a different sort. Riding the peacock throne Electra is like coasting along on a cushioned armchair. The potholes on the Mile End Road almost vanish and I’m upright and open armed.
 
Years ago I remember a bike shop in Edinburgh asked its customers what they liked best about cycling. Among the righteous and nerdy responses was the beautiful answer “Going Wheeeeeeee down hills”. There’s not a lot of hills between Stratford and Earl’s Court (I don’t count the Bow Flyover) but the whoosh from Queen Victoria Street onto the Embankment opposite Tate Modern makes my heart laugh with joy every time. The Thames opens in front of me, slickly black and shiny in the Tate lights at night or winter dark mornings. London suddenly opens up and I pounce onto the Embankment for the tourist view cycle up to Trafalgar Square and the safety of the Mall and Constitution Hill (known in my family as Constitution Slope – how can you call that a hill, you don’t even have to change gear).
 

 
The rain yesterday led to thinking about the right clothes for cycling and the thought that there aren’t any right clothes for me, but there are some wrong ones. It depends on the bicycle. The Electra invites frocks, and skirts and shoes with heels, but my everyday bike doesn’t have a chain guard, has spiky pedals and isn’t step through. Everyday bike is bossy about clothing and shoes. I ruined the soles of a nice pair of Prada sandals on its pedals, so no shoes with leather soles. Everyday bike pedals need soles with traction – Converse works fine and suits elderly bohemian ladies, though I get nervous that people will mistake me for an art therapist.
 
The lack of chain guard means tight-to-the-ankle trousers, or Capri pants, or short skirts, or tucking skirts into my knickers; something I was happy to do when I was eight, but now do only in “didn’t-think-it-through emergencies. I ought to use the pair of perfectly nice glow in the dark cycle clips my partner gave me years ago, but somehow I always forget them. In the summer I roll up both trouser legs; rolling up just the chain side one feels too Masonic. In the winter I pull my socks up over my trouser bottoms.
 
I have problems with long tops, tunics and short dresses because they catch under the saddle and try to make me fall off my bike at traffic lights. Anything tight across the back and shoulders is a failure because everyday bike needs me to lean forward, and there’s nothing worse than losing all feeling in your upper arms as you approach St Pauls.
 
I don’t wear a helmet (mostly) but am still trying to find the perfect cycling hat. Last year I was given a furry hat with ear flaps for Christmas, which looked like a contender for a winter hat, but its furriness means it’s difficult to see behind when I look over my shoulder, so now it’s kept for walks in the woods, and I’m stuck with the watch cap for winter cycling I found abandoned in the gutter.
 
In the summer I mostly don’t bother with a hat, but sometimes tie a headscarf in a 1950’s vicar’s-wife-on-a-bike kind of way. Not a good look on someone old enough to be a 1950’s vicar’s wife.
 
My personal faves are gloves and buffs. I wear fingerless gloves in the summer for grip and callous avoidance. My best pair are red and white leather with love and hate embroidered across the knuckles, but they leak red dye when wet. Spring and autumn I wear proper cycling gloves and in the winter huge great ski gloves. On very cold days I wear liner gloves under the ski gloves and still end up with numb thumbs.
 

Tot's Gloves


 
Buffs, a kind of cool jersey snood, are great for keeping your neck warm, or sun free, or making into a hat, or a helmet liner, or keeping sweat out of your eyes, if you really must cycle that fast.

 

And coats! And jackets! And bags! And still trying to find the perfect pannier! And never ever wearing shiny yellow tabards.”

 

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